Show Review: Midnight at Dante’s

Few artists embrace the inherent ridiculousness of metal as fervently as the Cleveland musician known as Athenar.

Despite how seriously fans take it, heavy metal is, at its core, one of the most sublimely stupid genres around. And few artists embrace its inherent ridiculousness as fervently as Midnight.

The solo recording project of the Cleveland musician known as Athenar hits on all the lyrical themes a headbanger could ask for (according to the essential resource Encyclopaedia Metallum: blasphemy, hell, Satan, sex). On the five albums and countless singles he’s released as Midnight, Athenar hits those bullet points with a playful speed metal thwack whose force is exponentially magnified when played live.

Taking the stage at Dante’s last Monday to the sounds of Cheap Trick’s “Hello There” followed by the tolling of a bell, Athenar and his touring rhythm section bounded to their instruments with springy steps. All three wore traditional metal garb—leather, denim, bullet belts—but capped off their outfits with dark head coverings that obscured their faces entirely.

The anonymity created by their sartorial choice afforded the trio a sense of invincibility. Athenar taunted the already frothy crowd, nudging its moshing and stage diving to a more manic lather. And the head coverings likely hid the wry smiles I imagined were on the trio’s faces as they leaned into their riotously over-the-top material (sample lyric: “Crawling in the slime and vile waste straight from your rectum”).

Midnight’s unhinged stage presence also proved a stark contrast to opener Necrofier’s set. Theirs was a far more rigid sound, relying heavily on the technical perfection of their playing. What they lacked in frenzied joy, the Texas quartet made up for with sinus-clearing blasts of volume and the Dave Lombardo-like combination of precision and power delivered by drummer Dobber Beverly.

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